Take 185 foundation people, a new program to support the information needs of communities, some hands-on staff from the Knight Foundation, and a sprinkling of outside experts, and what do you get? In this case, said result was a pretty energizing set of sessions focusing on how community foundations can support their communities needs for information and discourse in a democracy–and what are the right tools to help them do it?
Amy Webb, Bryan Alexander and Richard Cardvan did a panel, moderated by Knight’s Gary Kebbel, that took at look at the future of mobile in Japan and the US and smart tactics to use mobile to engage people right now(Amy), the pervasive role of hypertext and community in web and community today(Bryan), and the virtuous circle of the social media ecosystem and how it works with media and community (Richard).
Kati London and Kevin Slavin of the game development firm area/code talked about how games can change how we live in the real world and showed some great conceptual games comissioned by nonprofits.
Chris Csikszentmihalyi,, Diana Sieger, Michael Marsicano, Mayur Patel, John Kania, Jan Schaffer, and myself faciliated breakout sessions on topics ranging from how community foundations can help active residents meet their community’s information needs with new media projects to how to Access and respond to the digital divide; unequal access to online resources; Kristen Taylor shot video of many of them, and notes will be posted. (Mine was how foundations and non profits use social media tools to engage audiences, a topic I am currently obsessed with (notes here).
There was an exciting sense from the community foundation community at the event that they were going to look to Knight to help power some of the next-gen transformation around leadership and strategy (with new tools being taught to support that work).
I was impressed with the high level of quality of so many of the participants and the sense this group could indeed affect positive change–and that there was strong interest in evaluating and learning these new tools.
On a more reflective note, working with community foundations offers a huge opportunity. Closely aligned both to government and the local non-profits, businesses and schools, community nonprofits fit into the infrastructure of a community, but can do so much more to support revitalization, redevelopment, improved quality of life and policy changes around specific local issues. Bringing these organizations into the digital world in a more organized and systematic way,..helping them draw the line between strategy and execution..is a promising area in which to support change.